Category Archives: academia

My academic pursuits – from undergraduate, to postgraduate, and beyond.

Perth, online.

blog out links

Just a snapshot from my work this week.

With thesis submission day rapidly approaching (next Thursday – finally!), I’m just putting the finishing touches on my network visualisations. Obviously the real thing is higher quality – this is just a screenshot – but what you’re looking at are two things: a) the way in which 135 Perth-based food bloggers network their identities online, and b) the way that Perth food bloggers link to each other via blog rolls. (Tracking the comments on blogs would have been more useful, but I have run out of time to do it.)

I’ve also got overlays that show the links between their Twitter & Facebook pages, as well as how they all fit together.

The text is very small, but basically I use a coded system to designate each individual (for example, if my blog was in there it would be ‘bw’ – beyond words – and then my linked Facebook page would be ‘bw.fb’, and my Twitter profile ‘bw.tw’, and my Urbanspoon profile ‘bw.us’ and so on). I’ve done this for a number of reasons; partly, it was to keep the labels for each node short, so that they didn’t take over the graph, but also to add a degree of anonymity to my results (rather than saying Blogger X links to pages w, y, z), which allowed me a degree more freedom with my study (i.e. not having to get signed permission forms from everyone on the list).

None of my research in any way discusses content on any particular blog; everyone whose work is directly featured in my thesis (such as quotes from blog posts) has granted permission for me to use that information. Everyone else is just a dot, and a link.

Blogs are represented by black dots; aqua represents Facebook; blue is Twitter, etc. I found that bloggers link to sixteen different social platforms (including social networking sites, social bookmarking sites, social recommendation sites, and social curation sites) from their blogs (in order from most popular to least): Urbanspoon, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Flickr, Google+, YouTube, Foodgawker, LinkedIn, Posse, Yelp, Last.fm, Tastespotting, Tumblr (blogs that were hosted at Tumblr didn’t count towards this; if they did, Tumblr would come just after Google+, but I counted them as blogs for the sake of consistency), and Vimeo.

I haven’t included platforms like BlogLovin’ on here. I was going to, but in the end was having such problems with it at the time of data collection that I left it out. I’ve also undoubtedly missed some platforms. I used a site called IssueCrawler to get the initial links from blogs. Basically, I uploaded a list of URLs (i.e. all the blog URLs), and the returned results consisted of a spreadsheet with every URL linked from the blog’s main page. I checked everything manually a few times, as the IssueCrawler results weren’t perfect (some blogs appeared to have no links outwards, which proved to be incorrect based upon my double-checking).

I also checked everything a few times to make sure that I had the most accurate sample possible. A major challenge came in the form of collecting the sample group. Not all blogs h

One thing that I am hoping to do in the future if I have time is to create a dynamic visualisation of posts, which will plot the occurrence of blog posts across a period of time (back to about 2004, as I think that’s when the earliest post from this group was made) corresponding to the restaurant/cafe/location they blogged about, placed over a map of Perth. I’m not sure how I will treat home-cooking/recipe posts, but these could possibly be plotted as well, although not to a location (maybe by theme or primary ingredient).

Blogs are somewhat of a passe subject these days, but I’m quite fascinated by how the medium has persisted. We have all these other ways to communicate, as the social platform links attest (for instance, 51% of the group has a linked Urbanspoon profile, 49.5% a Twitter accounts, and 47.5% a Facebook page dedicated to their blog). However, blogs offer the opportunity for longer-form expression that few other platforms allow at this stage. (Newer platforms like Medium are changing that as they straddle the boundary between blog space, collaborative environment, and SNS.)

Because I’m specifically looking at Perth, these links just serve to demonstrate how closely knit the Perth food blogging community is (and, by extension, how close other online communities are). My research focuses on the ways that place identity can be encountered and expressed via locative and location data, so the crown in the jewel of my research is a much bigger map that looks at how Perth bloggers and social media users have talked about Eat, Drink, Perth over the past four years.

The decision to research that particular festival wasn’t entirely arbitrary; there are important, undeniable links between food, geography, identity, and community that are vital to my research, so EDP has been a useful vehicle for exploring local networks in more detail. I’m still working on finalising that visualisation. However, it’s taking a loonnnng time. I’ve collected the geographic coordinates for every EDP event from 2010-2013, as well as (I think?) every online news article, tweet, and blog post about EDP. (Probably not all; there are limitations. For instance, I have no access to private data, such as protected tweets, nor did I want access to them for this project as I am only looking at information that is publicly available. In addition, EDP/Show Me Perth remove content from their website and Facebook page every year before launching the new event. The Wayback Machine was somewhat helpful, but there’s no doubt I’ve missed stuff.)

All that information is being plotted on an incredibly complicated network visualisation that I will share here once it’s done. The graph corresponds to the geodata I’ve collected; for instance, all posts about the Butcher’s Picnic link to the node for that event, which is located (on the map and IRL) in Northbridge Piazza. There are also different levels of links for comments, trackbacks, and different colours utilised to represent different years of the festival. Fun!

f19 network structure

a basic example of how the main network visualisation is structured — bright green: event location (geolocated on a map). teal: events held at that location during one edp year (in this case, three; this is just a dummy example, there may be more/less in a given year). purple — blog posts about specific events. red: bloggers (the actual blogs). if you look closely here, this network depicts ‘blogger a’ as having written both of the blog posts (purple nodes); ‘blogger b’ was linked to in the mad hatter’s tea party post (there’s a tiny arrow pointing out from that node to the ‘blogger b’ node). imagine this, hundreds of posts over, for four years…

It actually is very fun. It’s just super frustrating and time consuming getting the data to appear in a way that is logical and informative, rather than just being a splash of colour on the screen that isn’t really any good for telling a story.

I’m thinking once I’m done with everything and have a spare moment, I’ll publish a list of Perth food blogs/Facebook pages/Twitter profiles on here, in case anyone is interested. I’ll also have high-resolution versions of my visualisations available too.

Everyone in Brisbane lives in Brisbane, apparently.

Here, have a picture I made.

citiesI was trying to get Gephi to make Seadragon-worthy versions network visualisations (news flash: it won’t for some reason) and thought I’d play with something less…subjective? My patience for my thesis data is hanging by a thread at the moment so I didn’t want to mess around with it too much.

Instead, pulled Australia’s population data from Google’s Public Database and mapped it by state…however I suspect something is up, as it doesn’t seem right that Queensland has all the big cities (I also don’t think it’s right that 1.06 million people live in the Brisbane local government area, but I may be wrong). Ah well. It was nice to look at something other than my regular ol’ network.

 

Sixteen.

Sixteen days to go.

In 384 hours I will probably be an hour or two away from waking up, driving to uni, and letting go of my thesis. It’s a terrifying prospect, and explains why I am awake still at 4:24 in the morning… not that that’s terribly unusual these days. The “nights” (hah – nights are for study!) I go to bed when the sun is already up are far outnumbering those in darkness.

I’m ready for it emotionally. I can’t wait to let the damn thing go. It has been my constant companion for far too long, and the relationship that I have with my thesis is difficult. If we were dating, we’d definitely have our Facebook relationship status set to It’s Complicated. Of course, “we” aren’t dating because there is no “we”; my thesis is a 300 page document that lives in my computer, in my head, and all over my living room floor. (Seriously, it’s quite distressing how much paper I have gone through editing this thing. Editing on the screen is just too difficult at this stage. I am definitely going to have to plant a few trees, or an entire forest, to make up for this one.)

It’s so much more than an inanimate object, though. One of the peculiar things about researching identity, and particularly narrative identity, is that I find a lot of parallels between my research and my own life. I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about what this project has meant to me. Over the past five years and ten months, it has been something I so looked forward to, then something that intimidated the hell out of me, then something I loved, then something that caused me an incredible amount of emotional anguish for a very long time, then something I left, then something I returned to with fresh eyes and unexpected enthusiasm. That was in July last year. At the time, I thought I didn’t have that much to do in order to finish.

L-O-effing-L.

I had all the things to do. I had written a lot before I took a year’s hiatus in 2011/2012, and most of it turned out to be unusable in its original state. It’s perfectly normal, I know, and indeed expected, that a PhD student’s work will undergo considerable change from first draft to final product. It has to; why bother doing a PhD if you go into it with a perfect grasp of what you hope to achieve? Many of the concepts and theories that have become the foundation of my thesis didn’t even exist in my work pre-2011. It took taking a year off, and allowing myself the opportunity to climb out of my own head, to realise what’s important to me, what I’m passionate about.

Predictably, this has made for an incredible amount of work over the past 16 months. I have essentially written my entire thesis, and researched probably 60% of it, in that time. At the same time I’ve worked anywhere between one and three jobs, because working 70+ hours a week on a thesis doesn’t actually pay the bills. (It did once upon a time, but my scholarship is loooong gone.) My mind boggles a little when I hear about people completing their dissertation within the allotted three year period. How? How do you do it? I don’t want to be presumptuous and claim that only those without jobs can do such a thing. I know there are people who are more efficient workers than I am, and others that went into doing a PhD with a more structured plan.

My research evolved organically. I read my thesis proposal recently – not my candidacy application, but the proposal I wrote when I first applied to study a PhD at Curtin – and, wow. It’s quite funny, actually, as my research took a massive detour from its origin for a very long time before returning to a somewhat similar area, although with a completely different focus. I was going to research online visual representations of bodies, initially (an extension of my Honours research); I’ve ended up studying embodiment as the essential condition for identity manifestation, but in the context of locative media, urbanity & place, and narrative constructions of self. I’m happy with this; I would’ve tired of my original topic, and over the past couple of years I’ve discovered a love for geography, mobility, and locative media. By letting my research do its thing and evolve naturally over time, I’ve managed to discover an element of my identity that I had no idea existed. Life copies art copies life.

So. Sixteen days to go. Sixteen days to let go. It’s not going to be easy; I could keep working on this forever, but I don’t want to. I can’t. I’m a chronic perfectionist; I could work on it forever and still never be happy with it. In sixteen days, I let go.

Linguistic tomfoolery.

I know the correct answer (“bear”), but I have always felt as though:

bare with me = let’s get naked together.

bear with me = let’s dress up as bears together.

Dear English language, please have more words so that this kind of thing doesn’t happen.

Current things.

current desk_01a. iPad, upon which I have too many books & articles to read. I try to read article/book-type things on there exclusively so I don’t clutter up my desktop and get distracted by going on unnecessary research journeys (it’s much more cumbersome on a tablet than a desktop) but it doesn’t really work out that way.

b. Lamp. The front half of my house (which includes all the bedrooms, one of the bathrooms, and the kitchen) currently has no lights, so I’m relying on lamps. There’s a standing lamp off to the right of me too, and it’s bloody hot and bloody annoying but the alternative is sitting in near-darkness, and that’s just too depressing. (The RE agent said they’d send out an electrician on Wednesday. They did not.)

c. Thesis. I’m using Scrivener, and it’s amazing.

d. Wikipedia. Do not even begin to judge. I’ve found myself needing to include a few bits & pieces about capitalism and globalisation in this chapter I’m almost-done editing. I’m not ashamed to admit that at this point – 12 years into a university education – I still turn to Wikipedia every single time that I need an overview of a concept. It’s never the last place I look, but almost always the first. Sue me.

e. Notepad for remembering Important Things. (Almost everything written on here ends up being forgotten about/written over/lost/never actioned.)

f. Mug. I am getting so sick of coffee.

g. Gel eyedrops. When I bought these, in a 30 pack or something, I thought I’d never, ever, ever reach the end of the box. There are three tubes left.

h. Pen. I’m really particular about writing implements. They have to be drawing pen-style, with a felt or plastic nib or whatever it is (like those on Artline pens) – never ballpoint or *shudder* gel. Gross. (I have pen cups full of pens, but currently I’m using Stabilo point 88. They’re not ideal – I prefer a 0.1mm nib and these are 0.4 – but they come in 30 colours, so that’s good. Can you believe I just wrote so much about a pen?)

i. Thesaurus. Doubles as a mousepad, because the shiny surface of my desk doesn’t allow for mouse-usage. Babow.

j. Headband for wild hair taming. I pretty much never use it because it’s a children’s headband and therefore fairly tight on my head… but it’s there just in case.

k. Post-it notes. I hate paper post-its. These are paper. I don’t know why they’re there. My research is almost entirely paperless these days.

/end procrastination.

 

Just good enough.

Over the past couple of months, I’ve kept returning to this post in times of immense thesis-induced frustration and/or hopelessness. Selected parts:

By the time I have handed in my PhD thesis, I will have worked on it for years.  I will have written at least twice as many words as those precious ones that make up the final document. I will have suffered innumerable bouts of self-doubt.  I will have endured days of thesis guilt…

And when it is all done, when it is all finally over, unless I subject myself to further edits and alterations, NOBODY WILL EVER READ IT.

I will have spent years of my life writing what is essentially, a book that nobody will ever even be given the opportunity to read.

It is easy to become overwhelmed by the desire to make sure that your thesis is amazing… what I have to remember is that it doesn’t need to change the world, it just needs to be good enough.

[originally seen on socphd]

Late night study tunes: edn. XV (afternoon edition IV)

It’s been a while since my last Late Night Study Tunes post. I’m sure I’ve been listening to something… I just can’t remember what.

(There’s been a lot of Korn, to be honest. Too much.)

This week I am tired. I’m always tired, I know; I post about tiredness a lot, because guess what? I am. All the time. This week it’s particularly brutal: it’s the kind of tiredness you don’t just feel in your head and eyes, but throughout your whole body. My bones hurt. Twice this week, I’ve been so tired that I couldn’t sleep, which has to be the mind and body’s ultimate fuck you.

Case in point: Tuesday. Tuesday I had to lecture. I love giving lectures. My tutorials are 90 minutes long, so a 45 minute lecture is, by comparison, easy. There’s also not a huge opportunity for crowd interaction, so I don’t have to worry about coming up with interesting questions (or, conversely, about what to do when people don’t feel like answering my questions!). I just put together some fun visuals, stand there, and do my thing.

Only problem is that when you have barely slept, it’s incredibly difficult. Monday night was stormy and noisy; I tossed and turned all night and managed maybe 90 minutes of sleep before giving in at 5am and getting out of bed. Who needs rest, right? I barely remember what happened in the lecture. It was a small crowd, owing to the truly terrible weather (Perth, you’re outdoing yourself at the moment), but there could have been 10,000 people there… or none. It was so difficult to focus. I have no idea what I said, and I’m sure I missed so many important points. At the end, my unit coordinator told me it was interesting that I’d linked up a point from this week’s topic with the guest lecture last week… and I had no idea that I’d done so. I couldn’t remember making that point.

Every teacher has bad classes or bad weeks. The classes themselves aren’t inherently bad: it’s got nothing to due with the students, and everything to do with where your head is at. This week, my head hasn’t been there, try as I may. It’s got nothing to do with lack of preparation or lack of care, either. I am so prepared for classes. I love teaching this subject. I want every single class to be fun and enlightening and memorable… for the right reasons. Not because I can’t get the technology to work, and not because I’m so exhausted that my brain is in shutdown mode.

I left the lecture on Tuesday desperate for a glass of wine and a dose of Roy Orbison.

I’m housesitting for my folks this week. Roy Orbison should’ve been easy to get. My dad’s music collection is huge.

I checked the vinyl collection: No Roy O. Hmm.

I checked the CD collection: Not in alphabetical order. Hmmmm. I wasn’t going to spend all day searching through unordered CDs.

I resorted to piracy. This is what my father makes me do. It was mostly guilt-free piracy, as I am positive that Dad’s paid for Roy Orbison music before. But still. Not ideal.

Roy Orbison, and particularly this song, will forever remind me of being a tiny child. I love it. The music and wine didn’t quite have the calming effect I’d hoped for, unfortunately – I barely slept on Tuesday night and was still brain-dead going into class yesterday afternoon – but it did the job on another level. Isn’t his voice just magnificent? (Yes. The answer is yes.)

Now, because I’m a walking contradiction, I’m going to listen to The Herd for the next hour and pretend that my voice is as magnificent as Jane Tyrrell’s. (It’s not. My dog actually got up and walked away from me when I was singing her verses yesterday.)